Rating: 3.75 stars
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Serge and Dex Freel have been together for years and now they are finally having a child. Betas can’t produce children of their own, but Serge and Dex have been chosen as adoptive parents and are waiting (impatiently on Serge’s part) for their new little one to be born. While they wait, the guys think back on how they first got together…
Dex and Serge meet at a party and are introduced by a mutual friend, The guys hit it off right away and Dex is definitely interested, but Serge is wary, especially when he notes that Dex has some close alpha friends. As a beta, Serge has had a bad experience with an overbearing and abusive alpha and so he finds it troubling to see Dex so close with the alphas. But he is still drawn to Dex and the two men start a friendship. They take it slowly, and over time that friendship begins to build into a romantic relationship.
Serge is still very nervous, however. As much as he likes Dex, he is still afraid of being hurt, or worse, that Dex will reject him once he learns about Serge’s past. But Dex is determined to show Serge that he loves him and can be there for him no matter what. Now Serge has to trust in Dex and their new relationship, or what they have built can not last.
Stronger is a short novel set in A.M. Arthur’s Breaking Free universe. While the first four stories feature alpha and omega relationships in the omegaverse, this one diverges by bringing us the story of the two married betas. Dex and Serge have been prominent side characters all throughout the series and play a big role as part of the friend group that has evolved among the pairs. I just love them and so I was really excited to see their story being told here. While this book is a standalone in the sense that it largely takes place before the series begins, it fits officially as book 3.5 and should be read after Heard if you are following the series.
So like I said, I love Dex and Serge and it was nice to get the backstory to how their relationship developed. We get a chance to see them meet, learn more about each of them individually, and get to know these guys better in a starring role, rather than just as support. I have always seen Serge as the more nurturing one, so I liked getting to see that softer side of Dex here as well as he helps Serge through some emotionally difficult events. Arthur does a nice job making this story feel connected to the series as a whole, but also stand alone well.
While the guys have some sweet moments together and Dex comes across as a total dear in the way he woos and cares for Serge, Serge spends a lot of time pushing him away. The conflict here focuses largely on the fact that Serge doesn’t like alphas (or more accurately, is generally afraid of them), so he is not happy that Dex has two alpha best friends. One of them is Tarek, the MC from Saved, so it sets up this kind of weird situation where on one hand we are sympathetic to Serge for his fears, and on the other it seems weird that the object of his fear is someone we know is a good guy. There is all this anti-alpha vibe in the story, and yet all the previous books have kind, loving alpha heroes. So that was kind of an odd vibe to me.
The other friend turns out to be exactly the asshole that Serge feared. However, I found this side of the dynamic a little off as well. Because for the whole time leading up to the conflict with him, Dex is defending the guy and he is his best friend. Then when he does something awful to Serge, it is presented more like Dex is mad because the offense is made against his boyfriend, not that this behavior is totally unacceptable in general. I am sure that is not what was intended, but it is how it came across. Not to mention making me wonder how Dex is so oblivious that he either doesn’t realize what a jerk his friend is, or somehow those awful things don’t bother him enough when they aren’t aimed toward Serge. So I just felt like this conflict about Serge and the alphas didn’t quite sit as well as I would have wanted given that it is the main conflict of the story.
So I hate to admit I didn’t quite love this one as much as I hoped. But that said, I really like this series and this characters and I enjoyed seeing how it all started for Dex and Serge. I think their backstory helps to round out the series nicely, as well as letting us get to know these popular characters a bit better.